At the conclusion of last season, the North Carolina women’s basketball team spurned an invitation to the postseason WNIT tournament.
But this season it’s kicking off the official season by playing Davidson in Carmichael Arena in the first round of the preseason WNIT tournament.
“We’ve been waiting for Friday to come with the preseason WNIT with Davidson,” coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We played in this four years ago, and it was a tremendous experience for us.”
The field of 16 includes three teams that made last season’s NCAA tournament: Georgetown, Middle Tennessee State and Liberty.
In their last preseason WNIT appearance, 2008, the Tar Heels defeated Oklahoma in the finals. That year, UNC’s season ended in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
But last season, the Tar Heels didn’t receive a bid to the NCAA tournament, and are using their lack of a post season as motivation for this year’s campaign.
“It kind of caught us by surprise, not being in the tournament,” Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said. “I think we just took it and rolled it over to this year. We’re motivated to do a lot better than we have in the past.”
Ruffin-Pratt, one of three seniors, will be leading the charge.
Ruffin-Pratt has spent time at nearly every position on the court, but this season, she’ll move into a permanent position at point guard.
“I’ve played a lot of different positions,” Ruffin-Pratt said. “I’m able to tell everybody where they’re supposed to be and what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Ruffin-Pratt isn’t the only Tar Heel to shift positions.
Sophomore three-point specialist Brittany Rountree, who shared point guard responsibilities last year, will move to shooting guard.
Along with more experience in the backcourt, the Tar Heels will also enjoy a deeper bench this season.
Sophomore point guard Latifah Coleman is back to full strength after sustaining an ACL tear last season, and will back up Ruffin-Pratt.
Redshirt freshman Megan Buckland also returns from an ACL tear.
“We’ve got bodies and we’re more athletic,” Hatchell said. “We’ve got more stability in positions.”
The depth of the bench will allow UNC to play a more complex offense, something they weren’t able to do last season with the numerous injuries.
“We had to stay very, very basic,” Hatchell said. “We just couldn’t play like we wanted to play … I was bored.”
If the exhibition games are any indicator, Hatchell won’t be bored this season. UNC easily won both games by 77 and 38 points, respectively.
“This is more how I like to play,” Hatchell said, “to keep our opponent on their heels.”
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